The most common travel insurance claims revealed

From your bag not turning up at the baggage carousel to an unexpected trip to the hospital, there are plenty of reasons you might need to have travel insurance.

When you plan a holiday, you don’t want to think about what could go wrong.

But it’s useful to have an idea of ​​what you might use travel insurance for, to help you choose the right policy.

In March we surveyed over 800 travelers who had recently claimed on their policies.

Here, we’ll reveal the five most common types of travel insurance claims.

1. Medical costs

Medical cover was the most utilized section of travel insurance and was behind 28% of claims in our survey.

For travel to many European countries, you benefit from protection under the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which entitles you to emergency treatment at the same cost as residents of the country.

Health-related costs that may not be covered by the GHIC include transfers between hospitals or travel back to the UK where medically required or any treatment in a private hospital. According to trade body the Association of British Insurers, these costs can be ‘jaw droppingly high’.

In one such case, the cost of medical treatment in Spain following a fall and emergency medical repatriation back to the UK came to £124,000.

When we reviewed 161 policies in April, all contained some measure of medical cover for overseas travel – with 98% providing cover of at least £5m.

Reassuringly, medical claims were also the most likely to be accepted.

  • Find out more: Best and worst travel insurance

2. Cancellation

Cancellation cover was a very close second, accounting for 27% of claims in our survey.

As the name suggests, cancellation cover pays out if you unexpectedly have to cancel your journey before setting off. It’s the reason why you should organize your insurance, or check you have the cover you needwhen you book your holiday.

You might need to cancel for a variety of reasons, from being stuck in bed with the flu to a natural disaster occurring in the destination country.

Before purchasing, carefully check that the cancellation cover contains what you need. Cover limits can be as low as £500 or as high as £15,000, and both are unlikely to suit you if your holiday costs £2,000.

Additionally, be sure you understand the constraints and exclusions. Most policies, for example, won’t cover you if they think you can reclaim your costs elsewhere – for example, from the travel company or a credit card provider.

3. Transport delays

If your outward trip is disrupted by transport turmoil, almost all policies (96% of those we reviewed) contain some cover for transport delays. Some 25% of claimants we surveyed made use of this insurance feature.

Delay cover comes in various sections. Some claims will be for reimbursing you food, accommodation and other expenses racked up as you were kept waiting, while ‘missed departure’ covers pays to get you back on track if a transport delay has led you to miss scheduled flights or ferries. But you’ll need to check the small print. For example, not all policies will pay for missed connecting or returning flights.

Most also include – or allow you to add – ‘abandonment’ cover, which covers the costs of you giving up on your trip and canceling it if delays have gone on for too long to tolerate (typically, this will be a period of 12 hours or more).

  • Find out more: compensation if your flight is delayed.

4. Lost possessions

It can be a sinking feeling when waiting vainly for your luggage to pop on to the airport conveyor belt while your fellow passengers all move in to grab theirs. And 21% of claimants enlisted their insurer’s help after their luggage went missing in transit.

Cover to replace lost luggage is virtually ubiquitous (in 99% of policies). But, again, limits can vary – from £300 to £5,000 – and high excesses have the potential to make claiming almost pointless. The highest excess we found in policies we reviewed was £250.

This newsletter delivers free money-related content, along with other information about Which? Group products and services. Unsubscribe whenever you want. Your data will be processed in accordance with us Privacy policy

5. Damaged possessions

Some 18% of claimants made a claim because of damage to their personal possessions, making it the fifth most common type. As with lost possessions, you’ll need a cover that matches the value of your items and an excess that makes the cover worth using.

With both forms of possessions covered, be aware that not all of your ‘stuff’ is treated the same way by travel insurers. Some policies apply higher claims limits per item if they’re classed as ‘valuables’.

Possessions such as cash or personal documents won’t always have the same level of cover, if they’re included at all.

The most and least common claims

From travel companies going bust, to emergency rescue services, six other reasons complete our list of the most and least common claims:

In March 2023, we surveyed 4,009 members of the public who currently owned travel insurance or had owned a policy in the past two years. 804 had made a claim during this period. The table shows the percentages of claims by type of claim. The percentages add up to more than 100% as some respondents made more than one claim.

How much are you likely to claim?

Travel insurance covers a vast array of potential scenarios, making it difficult to predict the size of claim you’d need to make should something go wrong.

According to the most recent published data from the Financial Conduct Authority, in the second half of 2021, the average claim made on an annual European policy was £926.

On annual policies worldwide, the average claim was £1,142, while on single trip policies the average was £976.

  • Find out more: our recommended minimum levels of travel insurance.

How to choose the best policy for you

Because you don’t know which single aspect of your travel insurance you’ll need, make sure that your policy fits you and your trip.

Our reviews of travel insurance policies from 56 providers can help you identify which policies offer the most comprehensive cover.

But follow our four tips below to help you find the one which is best for you.

Think about what protection you need

When it comes to you (namely, your health), the vast majority of policies offer medical cover of at least £5m, which we recommend.

Are you likely to be making claims in the millions? Hopefully not. But if I provider’s lagging in this most crucial of areas, it begs the question of where else it’s behind the rest.

With other areas of your policy, you can be much more targeted. Your cancellation cover doesn’t need to come to more than the cost of your holiday, or your possessions cover more than the cost of the things you’ll take with you.

You may also benefit from other types of financial protection that you don’t need to duplicate with travel insurance. For example, if you’re paying by credit card, you probably won’t be your insurer in the event your holiday company goes bankrupt. And if some of your gadgets or personal possessions are covered with gadget cover or home contents coverthis could reduce the amount of baggage cover you need with your travel insurance.

Be careful to check excesses, as these eat away at what you can claim.

Make a list

Check where your policy stands on the specific things you want or expect. Make a list of these and search for each item in the policy wording.

If there’s no mention of it, the safe assumption to make is that it’s not covered (even if it would seem natural or reasonable that it would be). If it’s ambiguous, contact the insurer.

Check the exclusions

It’s usually quite straightforward to find a table listing what’s covered and how much the policy will pay, but nothing comes without caveats. Check the exclusions.

Each section of the policy should state the exclusions specific to that area of ​​coverage. For example, cancellation sections will often give a list of what things are covered and another of which things aren’t.

However, the policy will also have general exclusions that will apply to all parts of the policy. For example, the policy might say it won’t cover anything to do with natural disasters.

Be honest when you buy

Make sure you’re honest and upfront in response to any questions asked and that you’ve disclosed any pre-existing medical conditions.

Declaring a condition could increase the cost of the policy, but not disclosing it could cost you thousands if the insurer doesn’t pay a claim.

In recent research, we found that pre-existing medical conditions were the second most common reason claims were turned down by travel insurers.

  • Find out more: Affordable cover if you have medical conditions.